Many in the Missouri medical community associate the Missouri Physicians Health Program primarily with alcohol and drug problems. This is no longer a correct perception.
It is true that when the first physicians health programs were developed in the 1970’s, there were two principal concerns: 1) alcohol and drug use, and 2) suicide. While some physician health programs may limit their services, the MPHP will attempt to assist Missouri physicians with any problems that could potentially interfere with their ability to practice medicine.
The MPHP will assist all Missouri physicians who request help. In addition to these physicians, we also assist physicians in training, both residents and medical students. If we can assist a physician in training to successfully resolve a problem, that will strengthen their future ability to succeed as a senior physician.
The MPHP is receiving more mental health referrals than previously. It is projected that in the coming years as baby boomers get older and live longer, all types of dementia will surface. Physicians with dementia experience significant affective and behavioral difficulties that create challenges for their colleagues., staff and patients. Working with these physicians requires us to have compassion and patience as well as access to excellent services that provide neurocognitive evaluations and support. Most of these referred physicians have served their patients well but now are becoming patients themselves. We welcome these referrals and have access to excellent resources.
In addition to the above, we receive referrals of physicians with mental illness in its various forms including bipolar and other types of depression. At one time, the regulatory system was not very responsive to a physician with a history of mental health issues. That has changed. We are able to advocate for physicians who seek proper treatment and medical management. Sometimes our monitoring is mandated, but we will assist the Board of Healing Arts or an employer to give that physician the opportunity they need.
Behavioral issues are another area we address. Since 2,000 when The Joint Commission became interested in disruptive behavior, we have had numerous referrals for assistance. While we do not diagnose or treat, we have excellent sources for multidisciplinary evaluations that provide us with a diagnosis and recommendations for treatment. We are then able to monitor the implementation of that plan.
Sexual boundary violations are always a problem. The intimate relationships between physicians and patients can lead to legal, ethical and personal challenges. Some patients may seek such an opportunity to exert influence over a physician. This may result in the inappropriate prescribing of controlled substances and even blackmail. This is potentially a very dangerous situation for which we have had much experience. A call to the MPHP is a recommended step even though it is embarrassing and stressful.
The MPHP has counseled physicians on a wide array of legal, practice and personal problems. We cannot have all the answers but we can be of assistance in helping a physician, medical student or resident find the help they need.
I have given you a broad idea of what we can offer Missouri physicians. You may have a unique issue. There is a simple answer: Call us! We are your first responders!